Questions over raising the debt ceiling have been in the air for weeks. Investors are getting nervous. The stock market is reacting adversely and the Chinese are openly referring to their investments in the United States. It's time to do something forthrightly to restore investor confidence both here and abroad.
The Affordable Care Act or Obamacare is at the heart of many of the concerns, as well as a plan to restrict the so called uncontrolled federal spending. Obamacare was a done deal when it was voted in. Chief Justice John Roberts sealed the deal by voting affirmatively to uphold the penalty provisions of Obamacare as a tax because Congress has the authority to make and levy taxes.
Even the staunchest Republicans will admit readily that they cannot overturn Obamacare as a practical matter. Some things can be done to strike a fair compromise. Some in Congress don't like the idea of a Medical Review Board appointed by the President. Organizational changes can be made to give the appointment power to the Secretary of HHS. Ultimately, the Secretary must decide whether or not to take the recommendations of the Medical Review Board. Lastly, Congress could include the Hill Burton Act Health Care Law under the definition of compliance with Obamacare. Many thousands of people receive free or low cost coverage under the Hill Burton Act and its authorized facilities. Constructively, Hill Burton Health Care coverage is a form of health care policy for the poor and middle class with incomes under $98 thousand dollars.
A hallmark of the Hill Burton Act is the exchange of free healthcare or significantly reduced prices for healthcare for a forgiveness of the mortgage debt on medical care facilities. This program has worked wonderfully since 1946 and it should be continued and even expanded.
The penalties for not obtaining the health care are very unpopular with voters and many in Congress including some Democrats. This can be remedied by doing away with the penalty tax in favor of raising taxes on the consumption of junk food. This would have dual benefits. First, more money would be raised. Second, taxes on bad food would force some people to make better food choices in their diet. This gets to the heart of why health care is so expensive. People simply eat too much bad food and they don't exercise enough. Requiring and funding high school and collegiate gymnastics is another way to combat obesity and childhood diabetes; thereby lowering medical costs in the aggregate.
Taxes on liquor and alcohol have been beneficial in raising billions of dollars to offset the horrendous costs of things like lung cancer and pancreatic cancer from bizarre levels of sugar consumption and excessive alcohol . We really need to tax products with large amounts of sugar in the manufacturing process. This alone would serve to reduce sugar consumption and lessen childhood diabetes which is becoming a national crisis for the health care pricing and delivery systems both publicly and privately. Taxing tobacco has lead to reduced usage and lower lung cancer rates.
The national debt has been growing at an alarming rate due to the Iraq/Afghan Wars and the aftershocks of the Great Recession which is still in the rear view mirror. The only way to cure the excess debt is to set the debt limit within a rational increment of the GDP growth, as was done under President Clinton and his Congress. A robust economic growth scenario is not too far down the road. Unemployment is dropping in many places, although underemployment is still an issue. Some states like Nebraska have achieved historically low unemployment rates hovering around 5% or less.
The energy outlook is good. America will become a net exporter of energy well before 2017. So the fundamentals are good. The Congress must pass interim legislation to run the government and quiet the considerable concerns of investors both here and abroad. Anything less will not be serving the interests of the American people or our strategic global trading partners. In closing, lawmakers should consider that America's creditworthiness both domestically and overseas is an over-riding consideration with regard to a successful bipartisan resolution.
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